Saudi cleric denounces mixing of sexes at talks

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia's leading Muslim cleric has denounced an international economic summit in the Red Sea port of Jiddah for breaking Islamic laws which forbid men and women mingling in public.

Saudi Arabia's leading Muslim cleric has denounced an international economic summit in the Red Sea port of Jiddah for breaking Islamic laws which forbid men and women mingling in public.

Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheik said he was troubled by photographs from the meeting, published in newspapers on Monday, which showed male and female business leaders from the Middle East, including Queen Rania of Jordan, mixing together.

The Grand Mufti said: "What we saw at that meeting of the mixing of men and women, and the women's appearance without their hijab (head scarf), which is ordered by God, is forbidden.

"My pain is increased by such shameful behaviour," he added. "God curses the woman that imitates a man, whether in appearance, clothing or in the lifting of her voice. So how can she walk among them, mix with them, uncovered?"

Saudi Arabia forbids the mingling of men and women in public. Women must keep their bodies covered from head to toe, except for their faces and hands, when they are outside their homes.

A Saudi woman must be accompanied by a male guardian - her father, brother, son or husband - to go to a government office or a restaurant. Saudi women are not allowed to drive and they can be jailed for being in a vehicle with a man other than a guardian or a professional chauffeur. (AP)

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